Sun, Mar 24, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Nicaragua opposition eyes deal on prisoner releases


Nicaragua’s opposition on Friday signed a timetable for reaching agreements to free a total of 802 people considered political prisoners, but releases have not started.

The Civic Alliance group said that the lists of prisoners in its possession still have to be collated with those compiled by the government and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Opposition negotiator Mario Arana said that he had hoped the government would release a first group of inmates over the weekend or early next week, but the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega refused to commit to that.

About 640 are in prison and 162 are under a form of house arrest.

Azahalea Solis, one of the main leaders of the alliance and a negotiator in talks with the government aimed at resolving a political standoff, said in an interview that the 162 released from prison and placed under house arrest last month could be granted more definitive freedom under a proposed deal.

Under such a deal, all 802 people detained since protests erupted in April last year would have unrestricted freedom and see their charges and trials annulled, she said.

Security forces and armed, pro-government civilian groups killed hundreds in their crackdown on demonstrators who last year sought Ortega’s exit from office, independent monitors have said.

This week, as negotiations that began on Feb. 27 were put on hold over the issue of jailed government opponents, Ortega’s government agreed to release them all within 90 days, prompting opposition negotiators to return to the talks.

In the past, authorities have repeatedly characterized anti-government demonstrators as “terrorists” and “coup plotters.”

Speaking at a political event on Thursday night, Ortega told supporters in an apparent allusion to the negotiations that “we do not all think alike, but despite our ideological and differences, we must unite around a sacred goal, which is peace.”

Solis told reporters that the 90-day window for releases is a maximum and could end up being shorter.

Still, she said that it would be “a slow and complex” process, because it entails documenting a long list of individual cases, including prisoners who have not been prosecuted, others facing trial and some who have already been convicted.

The alliance has demanded that police stop detaining government opponents, because otherwise, “the list of prisoners will keep growing,” Solis said.

“May all of them go free and clean, without a criminal record, because all the arrests were illegal and due process was violated,” she said.

The opposition is also seeking guarantees for the safe return of about 52,000 people who have fled the country, and asking that government opponents be able to secure jobs, return to university and get medical care.

The alliance would also demand discussion of disarming the pro-government paramilitary groups that attacked protesters, often visibly in coordination with security forces, Solis said.

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